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Debra Avenmarg joins CILS as a Staff Attorney in the Eureka office. Debra will assist the tribes, Indian organizations, and native populations in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, and Trinity.
Debra received her J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law in 2010 and received a B.S. in Business and B.A. in Economics from Humboldt State University in 2005. Debra joins CILS with years of Child Welfare experience from many different roles and perspectives. In 2005, she volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for three foster youth, which inspired her to go to law school and practice Child Welfare Law. Debra has experience supervising visitation and transporting youth while working for a Foster Family Agency (FFA). She has also been a foster parent. She has advocated in the County role, and she has also represented parents, guardians, children, and Non-minor dependents in Child Welfare proceedings. Debra has worked in Lassen County, Marin County, and Humboldt County. Debra is excited to now have the opportunity to represent tribes.
“I am excited to join the CILS community. I look forward to utilizing my past experiences and perspectives to represent tribes and to further the purpose of the Indian Child Welfare Act, Debra said. “I was drawn to CILS due to having passion for Child Welfare Law and also due to having an interest in furthering the rights of tribes. I am particularly excited about experiencing and practicing within tribal legal systems. I am looking forward to the opportunity to assist tribes in developing and implementing legal systems specially tailored towards the tribe’s unique values and needs.”
Alexis Lindquist joins CILS as a Staff Attorney in the Escondido office. Alexis will assist the tribes, Indian organizations, and native populations in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties.
“Through my clerkship with CILS, I learned the importance of providing legal aid services to low-income Native Americans,” Alexis said. “The services that CILS offers to these individuals give a sense of support to Native Americans when they don’t know where to start in their legal journey. Additionally, the broad range of projects that CILS takes part in is an integral part of the preservation and protection of tribal land, artifacts, and even ancestral remains. These play a significant role in maintaining cultural aspects within the Indian Community.”
Originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, Alexis graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Women’s Studies in 2006. While at ASU, Alexis took a Native American Women’s Studies course, which sparked her interest in American Indian Studies. Alexis then moved to San Diego and earned her J.D. from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2009. Alexis completed a Summer Clerkship position with California Indian Legal Services, which extended through the Fall semester. Upon graduating from law school and passing the Arizona bar exam, Alexis worked as a felony sex crimes prosecutor for Maricopa County for six years. She then moved to California, passed the California bar exam, and soon after was hired by California Indian Legal Services. In her spare time, Alexis loves to cook, practice yoga, walk her dog, and enjoy time outdoors with her family in beautiful Southern California.
Alexis is excited to re-join the California Indian Legal Services team and use her education and experience to advocate for both tribes and tribal members.
CILS wants to thank all 72 California tribes and 11 Indian organizations who signed on to the amicus curiae brief in the Brackeen v. Bernhardt (formerly Brackeen v. Zinke) case, which was challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The case has been pending before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for over five months. Finally, on August 9, 2019, the Court issued its decision upholding the ICWA in full! It was a major victory on all of the legal arguments made by the tribal and federal defendants. The Court’s ruling is as follows:
For these reasons, we conclude that Plaintiffs had standing to bring all claims and that ICWA and the Final Rule are constitutional because they are based on a political classification that is rationally related to the fulfillment of Congress’s unique obligation toward Indians; ICWA preempts conflicting state laws and does not violate the Tenth Amendment anticommandeering doctrine; and ICWA and the Final Rule do not violate the nondelegation doctrine. We also conclude that the Final Rule implementing the ICWA is valid because the ICWA is constitutional, the BIA did not exceed its authority when it issued the Final Rule, and the agency’s interpretation of ICWA section 1915 is reasonable. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the district court’s judgment that Plaintiffs had Article III standing. But we REVERSE the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Plaintiffs and RENDER judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims.
Unfortunately, this is not the end of the case. The plaintiffs can: (1) ask the Court to reconsider its decision; (2) request an en banc hearing before all (or most) of the 5th Circuit Court judges; (3) file a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court; or (4) pursue #1 and #2 and if they lose then pursue #3. As of this writing, we have not seen which direction the plaintiffs will go. However, CILS will keep you updated.
You may read the full opinion here and thank you all for your support.
On July 27, 2019, Escondido Directing Attorney Mark Vezzola spoke at a day-long event in Los Angeles called “California Kaleidoscope: Exploring the Intersectionality of Diverse Groups,” hosted by the Iranian American Lawyer’s Association in association with the University of West Los Angeles School of Law. Mark, along with Vida Castaneda, Senior Analyst at the Center for Families, Children & the Courts at the Judicial Council of California, spoke on a panel called “Co-Existence of Tradition & Modernity: The Native Americans’ Experience,” moderated by the Hon. Amy Pellman of Los Angeles Superior Court. The panel addressed more than sixty attorneys and judicial officers on important issues such as California’s dark history with tribes, historical trauma, tribal sovereignty, and cultural considerations in family law and custody contexts. The event was a great success.